Over 200 law enforcement agents, medical professionals, therapists, and educators gathered at the Oncenter to learn about ways to protect children from physical and sexual abuse. The Stand Against Child Abuse Conference took place Tuesday in Syracuse.
Mario Bonds uses music, humor, and, most importantly, his personal story of surviving sexual abuse to educate, inspire, and encourage child advocates.
“At 29 now I look like a direct product of the impact that their services has for the people that they’re helping. I am the result that they’re hoping to see when a kid comes in having been victimized by any form of abuse.”
Teachers, counselors, and anyone who works with children on a regular basis could have a tremendous impact on an abused child’s life, he says.
“All these people are on the front lines. Something they could say or do could be all the difference between kids making the decision to transform from victim to survivor.”
Bonds stresses the importance of self-care in his talk, and urges victims or witnesses of abuse to reach out for help.
Executive Director of McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center Linda Cleary says that Onondaga County receives over 6500 hotline calls a year about child abuse, but worries that other cases may go unreported.
“There’s so many hotline calls, but we’d rather take one more hotline call and find out that there really wasn’t anything there than to have missed the opportunity to intervene and protect a child.”
Cleary says that abuse prevention cannot be left to child advocacy professionals alone, but that all members of the community need to learn the signs of abuse and speak up on behalf of children who can’t speak for themselves.
“Sometimes adults see something and say, ‘oh it’s none of my business,’ and they don’t do anything about it. It is our business; it’s everybody’s business to protect our children.”
If you have witnessed or experienced child abuse, you can get help by calling the New York Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 342-3720.